Old Dog, New Tricks: DreamWorks Preparing for a 'Lassie' Comeback

[caption id="attachment_186440" align="alignleft" width="220"]lassieforthewin3 From Lassie's Facebook Page[/caption]

She's been stealing America's heart since 1938, and now DreamWorks Animation wants a piece of the "Lassie" pie.

The Los Angeles Times reports that DreamWorks Animation, responsible for "Shrek," "Shark Tale" and "Kung Fu Panda" among other modern children's classics, plans to reboot the famed "Lassie" brand for a public-eye comeback.

"She's heroic, she's loyal, she really is man's best friend," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation's chief executive. "She's the single most recognized pet in the world."

Katzenberg isn't playing games when he says the world knows their Lassie. Research agency Penn Schoen Berland reported that the character of Lassie had an 83 percent brand awareness in America, while Nielsen reported a 70 percent awareness of Lassie in China, a huge film playground.

But will all of this popularity mean box office gold? The jury's still out on this one. Those unsure of the draw of a new movie, despite brand awareness, aren't barking mad: The 1994 "Lassie" movie brought in $10 million for Paramount Pictures in the U.S. alone, but a 2005 remake of the film starring Peter O'Toole only banked a less-than-awesome $254 thousand in its opening weekend.

There's also a new fear: the "'Ranger' effect."  Disney recently released "The Lone Ranger," a  reinvention of the classic and celebrated TV show. But the well-known brand didn't save this film from bombing at the box office, many dubbing it a flop.

Michael Francis, global brand chief of DreamWorks, seems to be hoping to flavor the rebooted Lassie franchise with the same special something that earned "Man of Steel" $116.6 million its opening weekend.

"She's the original superhero and stands for the great qualities of loyalty and trust and is a uniquely American icon," Francis told the Times.

That new brand doesn't include a new "Lassie" movie...yet. DreamWorks is working on a strategy to reacquaint audiences with Lassie, bringing collies on celebrity-style publicity tours to promote brand awareness before doggy-bagging a budget for a movie.